Loreta’s Civil War: The gold fever

Gold and silver fever swirl around Velazquez, and her husband is not immune. She marvels at the different schemes employed to swindle the desperate settlers who share her aspirations for a new and better life.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 67: Gold and silver fever swirl around Velazquez, and her husband is not immune. She marvels at the different schemes employed to swindle the desperate settlers who share her aspirations for a new and better life.

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Shortly after my marriage I made a flying trip to New Orleans, for the purpose of seeing my brother and some of my relatives. Immediately a rumor was started that I had run away, and when I returned I found that all kinds of stories had been set afloat about me. My reappearance, however, set them all at rest, and, as my husband and myself zealously attended to our own business and let that of other people alone, we were permitted to dwell together in peace.

When I got back from New Orleans, we purchased a snug little stone house, and I devoted myself to advancing my husband’s interests as much as possible and to making our home comfortable and attractive.

My husband, for a time, prospered in his mining operations, and, although there were some envious people who spoke ill of him and of me, we succeeded in gaining the esteem of such of our neighbors as were worth knowing and did not disturb ourselves about what might be said of us by those who were disposed to speak evil.

The city of Austin, which is near the center of Nevada, at this time (1868) contained from fifteen hundred to two thousand inhabitants, most of whom were in some way connected with the mines. There were about a dozen stores, one hotel, four or five lodging-houses, half a dozen restaurants, more drinking- saloons than I ever undertook to count, Catholic and Methodist churches, a Masonic hall, and five quartz crushing-mills — only one, however, of which was in operation.

There was any amount of speculation in mines and mining stocks and any amount of the worst kind of swindling going on all the time. Some of the mines were good ones but others were mere pretences and were worth nothing at all. Many of these bogus mines were sold to eastern capitalists by experts, who made a specialty of working frauds of this description.

It was while residing in Austin that I first heard the expression “salting” applied to mines and learned what it meant. Salting, however, was only one of a number of frauds that were practiced every day.

It grieved me greatly that my husband should be compelled to associate and to transact business with such scoundrels as the men about him. His partner, especially, was as worthless a scamp as there was in the district, and, as I felt certain that he would in time be held responsible for some of the doings of this fellow, I persuaded him to give up mining and to seek a home in some locality that offered greater advantages for living, as decent people ought to live, than Austin did.

My husband accordingly sold out his interest in the mines, and we removed to California, where we purchased a lovely place in the Sacramento Valley. This was just such a home as I had always sighed for, and I was perfectly happy in the idea of settling down and living a quiet, contented life for the rest of my days.

It was not to be, however. My husband had the gold fever, and he found it impossible to be satisfied with what would have satisfied most reasonable people. He was restless and irritable and was all the time anxious to be off to the mines again.

We had not been settled in our new home more than a few months, when, to my infinite regret, he insisted on starting off for the new Eldorado in Utah. He then passed a year prospecting in Bingham Canyon, Camp Floyd, Eureka, and Tintic, and expended all his money without achieving anything. He was then compelled to accept the foremanship of a mine in the Lucine district, and after he had been working in that capacity for some time was promoted to superintendent.

One of the members of the firm by whom my husband was employed was a gentleman, and was honest, as honesty went in that region. The other was a drunkard and a fraud of the worst kind. This man, some time before this, had started a settlement which he named after himself and had built a smelting furnace, all for the purpose of selling some bogus mines. He also perpetrated an infamous swindle on some English capitalists, in relation to a mine in Nevada.

The way the thing was done was this, and it will serve as an illustration of the kind of swindles that were constantly being perpetrated in connection with mines. He sent to Virginia and purchased some rich ore from the Comstock mine for the purpose of salting the mine which he wished to sell. This was a silver-bearing lead, but there was not enough metal in the ore to pay for getting it out. It was necessary, however, in order to effect a sale, to give the impression that it was very rich. The smelter, therefore, run out about three thousand bars, which were supposed to be silver, but which were in reality half lead.

These were hauled to the depot, where the persons who proposed to purchase could see them but after dark they were taken back to the mine, and the next day the teams took them to the depot again. This was done for three successive days, and the Englishmen, seeing such enormous amounts of metal, became greatly excited and offered a million dollars for the mine. The speculator refused, and then they offered a million and a half. This offer he closed with, and a day was set for the inspection of the mine.

The “dumps” were thoroughly salted, and arrangements were made for the assayer and mining expert to be in attendance. The proposed purchasers had their expert with them, a German professor from Freiburg. This professor had a large sack with him in which to put samples of ore, and when going down into the mine he gave it to one of the men to carry for him.

The speculator had on a large blanket-coat with immense pockets in it, which were filled with rich ore. The man with the sack was also provided with a small quantity to be used in case of emergency. Every time the professor put a piece of ore in the sack, so soon as his back was turned the speculator or his man would drop in some of the rich ore. The result was that when the assays were made, they rose from three thousand to fifteen thousand dollars to the ton.

The Englishmen were in ecstasies and insisted on the contract being drawn up immediately. Part of the purchase money was then paid down, and the rest was to be forthcoming in thirty days. When the thirty days expired the purchasers took possession, only to find that they had been duped in a most outrageous manner. By the time the discovery of the fraud was made, however, the swindlers had fled, and the Englishmen had nothing to do but to return to London with empty pockets.

One of them, however, tried his luck again in Little Cottonwood, in the Wellington district, but with no better success.

My husband was at this time superintendent of one of the Wellington mines, and I consequently had ample opportunities to study mining life and to become acquainted with the numerous frauds that were going on. I was also thrown in a good deal with the Mormons and was able to study their characters and manners.

Little Cottonwood Canyon is about twelve miles long, is very narrow and very deep. A stream runs down the middle of it, which is very swift in the months of June and July, when it is full, on account of the melting of immense quantities of snow in the mountains.

Tannersville is a town or settlement named in honor of a woman who kept a hotel or stage-station there. There was a mill and smelter at that place at the time of which I am writing.

Alta City, at the foot of the two canyons — Big and Little Cottonwood — is a town of rather more importance. When I was there it had three stores, a hotel, a couple of lodging-houses, a livery stable, and a large number of drinking-saloons. The dwelling-houses were mostly very small and were entirely invisible in winter, being covered by the snow. The snow usually commences to fall about the middle of September, but I have seen it in August. During the winter many parts of the canyon are impassable, except by the use of sledges and snow-shoes, and there is constant danger from avalanches, which carry everything before them.

The Wellington mine lost its foreman and a miner through an avalanche while I was there, and many men have lost their lives in this canyon, their bodies remaining buried beneath the snow until spring.

I doubt whether many of the mines in this district will ever be successfully worked. The Emma is one of the best, and I think could be made to pay if judiciously operated. This mine is situated in the side of the mountain and is almost perpendicular. On looking at it, it is impossible not to wonder how the owners ever reached it or are able to work it. I believe that there is an immense lead of silver here which will yet be unearthed.

This part of the country offers a rich field for the botanist and naturalist. The flowers are in the greatest profusion and are of every imaginable hue. They grow from the mouth of the canyon to some of the highest points on the mountains.

The wild cherry, the whortleberry, the serviceberry, the thimbleberry, and the dewberry are very abundant.

On the very summits of this immense range will be found clear blue lakes, filled with spotted trout. How they have managed to get there is more than I can tell.

When the highest points are reached, if one looks aloft the broadwinged eagle may be seen wheeling in the air, while upon the ground are the beautiful mountain squirrels, busily engaged in gathering their winter stores. I have often sat for hours and watched these nimble little animals. There are as many as six different varieties of squirrels, some of which are not larger than mice, while others, the size of the common gray squirrels of the Eastern states, are beautifully striped and vary in color from light gray to dark brown. The greatest enemies of these harmless animals are the eagle and the mink.

Large rats abound in the woods, as do also the brown weasels. These last-named animals are about eighteen inches in length from the nose to the tip of the tail. The head is small, and the eyes, which are very prominent, are of a soft, lustrous black. The weasels are very cunning and are especially destructive to the mice and squirrels. I have seen two old ones kill as many as six or eight mice in a day in my home and carry them, one at a time, across the ravine to their young in the woods. While carrying a mouse, however, should a squirrel appear, the weasel will throw down the mouse, and go after this fresh game, and then come back and get the mouse.

Loreta’s Civil War: More bombast than true enterprise

Velazquez decides it is time for a fundamental change in her life. She marries again, and she joins an expedition of Southerners ready to start over in the Venezuelan wilderness.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 58: Velazquez decides it is time for a fundamental change in her life. She marries again, and she joins an expedition of Southerners ready to start over in the Venezuelan wilderness.

******

Taking advantage of the condition of mind and pocket which a great many people were in, a number of emigration schemes were started, most of them, I am confident, by swindlers. Many persons were so anxious to get away that they did not exercise even common prudence in investigating the facilities that were offered them, and the result was that they did much worse than if they had remained. The sufferings endured by some of these emigrants cannot be estimated, and the story of their attempts to find homes for themselves and their children in some land where they could live in peace and quietness and enjoy the fruits of their labor without fear of being plundered is one of the saddest and dreariest pages in the history of the country.

I was much interested in these emigration schemes when I first heard of them and was extremely anxious to investigate them, for my own sake as well as for that of my suffering fellow-country people of the South. Venezuela was one of the countries which it was proposed to colonize, and representations were made to the effect that the Venezuelan government would extend a cordial welcome to emigrants and would aid them in establishing themselves.

I consulted with a number of wise and prudent men with regard to this Venezuelan project but did not get much encouragement from them. They said that they would prefer to see the country for themselves and to find out exactly what the government was willing to do before they would care to invest any money. They thought that the country was rich and fertile but that many of the reports about it were palpably exaggerations, having been gotten up in the interests of speculators. It would consequently not be a prudent thing for anyone to emigrate there unless some trustworthy person should undertake to go and see what was to be seen, for the purpose of making a strictly truthful report. …

It having been announced that I intended to go to Venezuela, I was called upon at the City Hotel, where I had my quarters, by Capt. Fred. A. Johnston, who was fitting out an expedition. He gave me a most glowing account of the country, describing it as a perfect paradise, although I speedily judged, from his conversation, that he knew nothing about it except from hearsay.

I had no difficulty in reading Capt. Johnston’s character, and what I saw of him subsequently only confirmed my first impressions. He was a nervous, excitable man, with more bombast than true enterprise. He was anxious to make money, and to make it very quick, and was consequently not particularly scrupulous about the means. He had a tolerably good education but was not smart enough to put it to good use, and he was always engaged in some wild speculation or other, but never could accomplish anything. He was a plausible man, however, and a good talker, and, considering how many people felt at the time, it was no wonder a number were deceived by him.

After a long conversation with Johnston, I made up my mind to go with him, and in the meantime secretly advised my friends not to put any money in his or any other expedition until they heard from me. I was visited by a number of persons, who, on being informed that I proposed to go with Johnston’s expedition, said, in effect, “We will depend upon the report you make as to the climate and the country, for we have families to support and we do not want to run the risk of going to a foreign land, about which we know absolutely nothing.” I promised to make a faithful report. …

I commenced making my preparations, and Johnston, who was apparently beginning to consider me a valuable ally, came and invited me to go over to Algiers, across the river from New Orleans, with him for the purpose of meeting the others who were going. I found a number of proposed emigrants at Algiers who were waiting for the vessel which was to convey them to their new homes. They all seemed to be in a cheerful mood and well satisfied at the prospect of speedily getting away from a land where there was so much suffering. A meeting was called for the purpose of consultation with regard to chartering a vessel and arranging for supplies, and Johnston greatly desired me to deliver an address. This I declined to do but I took occasion to say, that while it might be well enough for single men to engage in an enterprise of this kind, it was, in my opinion, rather too risky a thing for those who had families dependent upon them.

After my return to the city I reviewed the situation in my mind more clearly than I had hitherto done. I was becoming less and less satisfied with the way things looked and could not help asking myself. Why should I make any attempt to leave the country I had fought for and give it up to the carpetbaggers and negroes? Why should I interest myself in such an enterprise as this one of Johnston’s merely for the purpose of gaining information for people whose duty it was to look out for themselves? I called, in my perplexity, on an old gentleman who had been a good deal in California and asked his opinion of the Pacific slope and of the advisability of those who wished to emigrate from the South going there.

He said that there was not a country in the world equal to California, and it would be vastly better for those who wanted to find new homes to find them there or in some other portion of the far west rather than to go to South America. As for Johnston, he said that he would not take his own family to Venezuela until he had looked at the country himself, and it was doubtful whether he would then.

The poor people whom Johnston had enlisted in his scheme, however, had their hearts set upon going to Venezuela, and nowhere else, and though my heart ached at the disappointment and perhaps severe suffering that was in store for them, I saw that it was useless to attempt to turn them from their purpose. They had their new homes all pictured in their imaginations, and Venezuela appeared to them like a second Garden of Eden, where all was peace, happiness, and prosperity, with no free negroes or carpetbaggers to intrude upon them.

Many of this band of emigrants were most estimable people, but, as I speedily discovered, there were some worthless ones among them, and I dreaded more and more the execution of the task I had set myself to do. Having, however, announced my intention of going, and having excited the expectations of my friends, I concluded that it would not do to back out, and so determined to go through with the thing, no matter what the consequences might be.

Among the emigrants who had enlisted in Johnston’s band was a young Confederate officer, Maj. Wasson. He was a remarkably fine-looking man, with long, wavy, flaxen hair, which he wore brushed off his forehead, blue eyes, and fair complexion. The day before going over to Algiers with Johnston I had seen him on one of the street cars and was very much struck with him. At Algiers I had some conversation with him and invited him to call on me at the hotel. This he did, and I discovered that he was a stranger to all the rest of the band of emigrants, that he was anxious to get out of the country, and that, attracted by Johnston’s representations, he had resolved to go to Venezuela with his expedition.

After that I saw a great deal of Maj. Wasson, and a strong attachment sprang up between us. A few days before we were to sail, he asked me to accept his hand, and I did so willingly, for not only did I admire him greatly but I felt that it would be better in every way that I should accompany the expedition as a married woman.

We were accordingly married and for some days kept the matter secret, it being our original intention not to say anything about it until after we were out at sea. As I was, however, pursued by the attentions of several other gentlemen, we finally concluded that the fact of our being husband and wife had best be announced.

Loreta’s Civil War: Neither starved nor beaten

Under the shadow of tragedy, Velazquez prepares to re-enter the Civil War with grim determination to fulfill her original dream of glory.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 32: Under the shadow of tragedy, Velazquez prepares to re-enter the Civil War with grim determination to fulfill her original dream of glory.

******

Our honeymoon was a very brief one. In about a week [my husband Capt. De Caulp] thought himself well enough to report for duty, and he insisted upon going, notwithstanding my entreaties for him to remain until his health was more robust. Had he been really fit to endure the exposure and toil of campaigning, I would never have offered to stay him by a word, for my patriotism, although perhaps not of so fiery a nature, was as intense now as it was when I besought my first husband to permit me to accompany him to the field, and I considered it the duty of every man, who was at all able to take a hand in the great work of resisting the advance of the enemy, to do so. But Capt. De Caulp, I knew, was far from being the strongman he once was, and I feared the consequences should he persist in carrying out his resolve.

Ho did persist, however, in spite of all I could say, and so, when I found that further argument would be useless, I prepared his baggage and bade him a sorrowful adieu. … Before reaching his command, Capt. De Caulp was taken sick again, and before I obtained any information of his condition, he had died in a Federal hospital in Chattanooga. This was a terrible blow to me, for I tenderly loved my husband, and was greatly beloved by him. Our short married life was a very happy one, and its sudden ending brought to nought all the pleasant plans I had formed for the future and left me nothing to do but to launch once more on a life of adventure and to devote my energies to the advancement of the Confederate cause.

Capt. De Caulp was a native of Edinburgh, Scotland. His father was of French descent, and his mother was a Der- byshire woman. He was very highly educated, having studied in England and France with the intention of becoming a physician. His fondness for roaming, however, induced him to abandon his design, and in 1857 he and his brother came to this country and traveled over the greater part of it until 1859. In the last-named year he joined the United States Army, but on the breaking out of the war he came South and offered his services to the Confederacy. From first to last he fought nobly for the cause which he espoused, and he died in the firm belief that the Southern states would ultimately gain their independence.

Few more honorable or truer or braver men than Capt. De Caulp have ever lived. He was tall in stature, with a very imposing presence. His hair was auburn, and he had a large, full, dark, hazel eye. He was a very powerful man but as gentle as a child and exceedingly affable in his disposition and remarkably prepossessing in his manners. At the time of his death he was about twenty-nine years of age. I made an endeavor to procure his body for the purpose of sending it to his relatives in Scotland, in accordance with his last request, but, owing to the exigencies of the military situation — the Federals being in possession of Chattanooga — I was unable to do so.

Capt. De Caulp’s brother was also in the Southern army and also held the rank of captain. He died in Nashville just after the close of the war, leaving a wife, who died in New York.

When under the influence of the grief caused by the sudden death of my second husband, within so brief a period after our marriage, I felt impelled to devote myself anew to the task of advancing the cause of the Confederacy by all the means in my power, the circumstances were all materially different from what they were when, the first time I was made a widow, I started for Virginia, full of the idea of taking part in whatever fighting was to be done. It was no longer possible for me to figure as successfully in the character of a soldier as I had done. My secret was now known to a great many persons, and its discovery had already caused me such annoyance that I hesitated about assuming my uniform again, especially as I believed that, as a woman, I could perform very efficient service if I were only afforded proper opportunity. …

On reviewing the whole subject in my mind, I became more than ever convinced that the secret service rather than the army would afford me the best field for the exercise of my talent, although I almost more than half made up my mind to enter the army again and try my luck, as I had originally done, disguised as an officer. …

I finally concluded that the best thing for me to do was to go to Richmond, and if nothing else availed, to make a personal appeal to [Confederate President Jefferson] Davis, feeling assured that when he heard my story he would appreciate the motives which animated me and would use his influence to have me assigned to such duty as I was best qualified to perform in a satisfactory manner. This resolve having once been made, I prepared, without more delay, to visit the capital of the Confederacy, leaving behind me Atlanta, with its mingled memories of pleasure and pain.

The military situation at this time — the autumn of 1863 — was of painful interest, and the fate of the Confederacy seemed to hang trembling in the balance. In Virginia, [Confederate Gen. Robert E.] Lee was defending Richmond with all his old success and was holding one immense army in check so effectively that the prospect of ever entering the Confederate capital as conquerors must have seemed to the enemy more remote than ever. In the West and South, however, the Confederates had lost much, and the question now with them was whether they would be able to hold what they had until the Federals were tired out and exhausted, or until England and France, wearied of the prolonged contest, consented to aid in terminating it by recognizing the Confederacy and perhaps by armed intervention.

It was known that there were [dissentions in] the North, and that there was a strong anti-war party, which it was expected would, ere long, make its power felt as it had never done before, and if the South could hold out for a season longer, would insist upon a peace being concluded upon almost any terms. Great expectations were also built upon foreign intervention, which every one felt had been delayed longer than there was any just reason for, but which it was thought could not but take place shortly. Every little while exciting rumors were set afloat, no one knew how or by whom, that either France or England had recognized the Confederacy, and many bitter disappointments were caused when their falsity was proved. The people, however, hoped on, getting poorer and poorer every day, and eagerly watching the progress of the campaign around Chattanooga.

The Mississippi River was now entirely in the hands of the Federals, and not only were the Trans-Mississippi states … lost to the Confederacy. … [Confederate Gen. Braxton] Bragg had been compelled to fall back with most of his forces to Chattanooga and had been expelled from that place, which was now in the hands of the Federals. All efforts on the part of the Federals to advance beyond Chattanooga, however, had utterly failed, and the opinion … was gaining ground that they had been caught in a trap and would in a short time be incapable of either advancing or retreating.

While I was in the hospital, Bragg gained his great victory at Chickamauga, and great hopes were excited that he would be able to follow it up with effect, and succeed in destroying the army of [Union Maj. Gen. William S.] Rosecrans. Had he succeeded in doing this, the war would have had a different ending, and the independence of the South would have been secured. It was felt by everybody that the pinch of the fight was approaching, and that in the neighborhood of Chattanooga, rather than in that of Richmond, would the decisive battle of the war be fought, and, it was hoped, won for the Confederacy. …

Much as we had lost, the situation was not an altogether discouraging one for the Confederacy. Richmond was apparently more secure than it had been two years and a half before, and nearly all the honors of the war in that vicinity had been carried off by the Confederates. Lee was making himself a name as one of the greatest generals of the age, while the Federals, although they changed the commanders of their army continually, were making no headway against him and were in constant fear of an invasion of their own territory. In the South, Bragg had just achieved a great victory over Rosecrans and had him now penned up in Chattanooga, from which it was next to impossible for him to escape in either direction. …

Well, matters did not turn out as it was expected they would. Bragg’s victory at Chickamauga was a fruitless one … and the army of Rosecrans was neither starved nor beaten into subjection. On the contrary, Rosecrans was superseded, and [Union Maj. Gen. U.S.] Grant was put in his place to follow up the victories he had won at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg, and the army was so greatly reinforced that it was enabled to press forward and menace Atlanta and finally to capture it. …

With only the most indefinite plans for the future, and little suspecting what exciting and perilous adventures fate yet had in store for me, I proceeded, on my arrival in Richmond, to call on [Confederate Gen. John H.] Winder, and took measures to procure an interview with President Davis. From Gen. Winder I did not obtain much satisfaction, and Mr. Davis, while he was very kind to me, did not give me a great deal of encouragement. I represented to President Davis that I had been working hard for the Confederacy, both as a soldier and a spy, and that I had braved death on more than one desperately fought battlefield while acting as an independent, and that now I thought I was deserving of some official recognition. Moreover, I had lost my husband through his devotion to the cause, and, both for his sake and for my own, I desired that the government would give me such a position in the secret service corps or elsewhere as would enable me to carry on with the best effect the work that he and I had begun.

Mr. Davis was opposed to permitting me to serve in the army as an officer, attired in male costume, while he had no duties to which he could properly assign me as a woman. I left his presence, not ungratified by the kindness of his manner towards me and the sympathy which he expressed for my bereavement, but nonetheless much disappointed at the non-success of my interview with him.

Failing to obtain any satisfaction from Mr. Davis, I returned to Gen. Winder but got comparatively little encouragement from him. He finally, however, consented to give me a letter of recommendation to the commanding officer of the forces in the South and West, and transportation. This was not exactly what I wanted, but it was better than nothing. … Having obtained this important document I started off, and, for the last time, made a grand tour of the entire Southern Confederacy. Stopping from point to point, I gathered all the information I could, and thoroughly posted myself with regard to the situation — military, civil, and political — and endeavored to find a place where I could commence active operations with the best chance of achieving something of importance. …

On arriving at Mobile, I took up my quarters at the Battle House with the intention of taking a good rest … of arranging some definite plan of action for the future. I was resolved now to make a bold stroke of some kind … trusting that my usual good luck would accompany me in any enterprise I might undertake. …

In Mobile I met quite a number of officers whom I had met on the various battlefields where I had figured and received the kindest and best attentions from them all. This was most gratifying to me, and the flattering commendations that were bestowed upon me served to mitigate in a great degree the disappointment I felt on account of the non-recognition of the value of my services in other quarters.

I may as well say here, that in mentioning the disappointments I have felt at different times at not being able to obtain exactly the kind of official recognition I desired, I do not wish to appear as complaining. That I did feel disappointed is true, but reflection told me that if any one was to blame, it was myself. By entering the army as an independent, I secured a freedom of action and opportunities for participating in a great variety of adventures that I otherwise would not have had, but I also cut myself off from opportunities of regular promotion. When I resolved to start out as an independent, I was animated by a variety of motives, not the least of which was that I believed I would be able to maintain my disguise to better advantage and would have better opportunities for escaping any unpleasant consequences in case of detection than if I attached myself regularly to a command. I was right in this, and am now convinced that, on the whole, the course I pursued was the wisest one.

Not having been attached to a regular command, at least for any great length of time, it was impossible for me, however, to secure that standing with those who were best able to reward my services that was necessary, while the full value of my services could only be made known by my taking a number of people into my confidence, and this I had great objections to doing. As matters turned out, the peculiar experiences through which I passed, during the first two years of the war, were of the utmost value to me in a great many ways in the prosecution of the very important work in which I subsequently engaged. …

Loreta’s Civil War: ‘You are she?’

Velazquez tells her fiance the truth about Lt. Harry T. Buford.

KS45

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 31: Velazquez tells her fiance the truth about Lt. Harry T. Buford.

******

I was greatly agitated, not only at the sight of his extreme happiness but because I felt that the dreaded hour was now come when I must reveal my secret to him. I loved him most fondly, and it was but yesterday that I had heard from his own lips assurances of his affection for me, the verity of which it was impossible for me to doubt, and yet I dreaded whether his feelings towards me might not change when he heard my story. I felt that they ought not, and I did not believe that they would but I had heard so many men, and good men too, speak harshly with regard to women undertaking to play the role that I had, that my very love gave encouragement to my fears lest [my beau] Capt. De Caulp — when he learned I had been in the army ever since the outbreak of the war, and from before the date of our engagement, disguised as a man — would regard my course with such disapproval that he would refuse to consider the motives which induced me to adopt the course I had taken.

The situation was, for me, painful beyond expression, and although I felt that the secret must now be told, I scarcely knew how to tell it or how to begin an even ordinary friendly conversation with him. The disclosure which I was about to make was, moreover, one that was meant for no other ears than his and was certainly not a proper one for the public ward of the hospital. My first care, therefore, was to get him to a place where we could converse without being overheard, and so I said, “Captain, I congratulate you heartily, and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting with your lady. As you expect to have a visit from her soon, and as you will doubtless want to talk over a great number of confidential matters, don’t you think that it would be better if the doctor were to move you into a private room?”

He said, “Yes, thank you for the suggestion — that is just what I would like. I wish you would tell the doctor I want to see him.”

I accordingly conveyed his message with all possible dispatch, and the doctor very cheerfully granted his request and had him taken to a private chamber. A barber was then sent for, and he was shaved and made to look as nicely as possible, and it touched me deeply to notice what pains he took to make himself presentable in view of the expected arrival of his lady-love, whom, by the anxious manner in which he glanced at the door, he was evidently looking for every minute and almost dreading her arrival before he was ready to receive her.

So soon as we were alone together, I said gravely, “Now, captain, I have something of great importance to say to you before our sweetheart comes.” He looked at me wonderingly, evidently impressed by my manner, and apparently half-fearing that something had occurred to defeat his expectations.

I then knelt by the bedside, and taking from my pocket a picture of himself that he had sent me, and his last letter, said, “Did you ever see these before?”

He glanced at them, recognized them, and turned deadly pale. His hand trembled so that he could scarcely hold the picture and the letter, and looking at me with a scared expression, he gasped, “Yes, they are mine! Where did you get them? Has anything happened?”

“No, no, captain,” I exclaimed. “You must not be frightened — nothing has happened that will be displeasing to you.”

“But I don’t understand,” he said. “How did you get these?”

“Ah!” I said, “that is my secret just now. You know you told me last night, when you showed me the portrait of your lady, that you had not seen her for three years — are you so very sure of that?”

He still failed to comprehend what I meant, and stared at me in astonishment. I, therefore, went to his pocket, and got the picture, and, placing it in his hand, said, “Now take a good look at that, and tell me if you have not seen somebody very much like it inside of three years.”

He looked at the picture, and then at me, with a most puzzled expression, unable to say anything, until I, oppressed with his silence, and unable to endure longer a scene that was becoming most painful to both of us, said, “Well, captain, don’t you thing that the picture of your lady-love looks the least bit like your friend Harry Buford?”

A light seemed to suddenly break upon him — he gasped for breath and sank back overcome on his pillow, the great drops of perspiration standing out all over his forehead. Then, raising himself, he looked me hard in the face, and, grasping my hand tightly, exclaimed, “Can it be possible that you are she?”

“Yes,” said I, clasping his hand still tighter, “I am, indeed, your own Loreta. It was your sweetheart who fought by your side at the great battle of Shiloh, and not only on that occasion, but ever since the outbreak of the war she has been doing a soldier’s work for the cause of the Confederacy. Can you love her a little for that as well as for herself, or will you despise her because she was not willing to stay at home like other women, but undertook to appear on the battlefield in the guise of a man for the purpose of doing a man’s duty?”

“I love you ten times more than ever for this, Loreta!” he said, with a vehemence that brought tears of joy to my eyes. I then went into a long explanation of my reasons for acting as I had done and gave him an outline of my adventures, reserving the details for a future time when he would be stronger and less agitated. He suggested that I should not reveal the secret to any one else just at present, whereupon I proposed that we should continue as we were until the war was over, I to make such arrangements, however, as would enable me to be near him. He would not listen to anything of this kind, but said, “No, my noble lady, I can never permit that — I cannot consent to part from you again until I have called you by the endearing name of wife.” He then burst into tears, and, leaning his face on my shoulder, said, between his sobs, “Oh, Loreta, can it be possible that you have been so far from me and yet so near to me, all this time?”

This interview had agitated both of us greatly, and, as Capt. De Caulp was still very weak, I was somewhat fearful of the consequences to him, so I tore myself away after promising to see him again soon, and requesting him to compose himself and not let his excitement retard his recovery.

The crisis was past for me, and all was well. I had the strongest assurances that a woman could have of the undivided love of as noble a man as ever breathed, and to say that I was supremely happy but faintly expresses what I felt as I left the chamber of Capt. De Caulp. It all seemed like a dream to me, but it was a happy one, and I desired never to awaken from it. I was of too practical and decided a disposition, however, to give way to mere sentiment on such an occasion as this, and the fact that my lover was still confined to a sick-bed rendered it the more important that I should be about and making such preparations as were necessary for our approaching marriage.

I felt quite strong enough to leave the hospital and told Dr. Hay so. He was a little dubious about it but finally consented that I should go out on condition that I would take good care of myself and not attempt to enjoy out-of-door life too much of a sudden. As he was himself about going out as I was prepared to leave the hospital, I walked down the street with him, holding his arm. As we were sauntering along, I asked him, “Doctor, how do you like Capt. De Caulp?”

“Oh, very much, indeed!” said he. “He is a perfect gentleman in every respect and a man of very polished manners and superior talents. He is of foreign extraction, I think.”

“Yes,” said I, “I believe he is. I have known him for five years, and I think a great deal of him. I was with him at the Battle of Shiloh, and he behaved like a true hero.”

“Ah, indeed!” said the doctor. “I knew that you were acquainted, but I did not know that you had served together during the war.”

“Do you think he will soon be well?” I inquired. “He seems to be getting along quite nicely.”

“Oh, yes, if he takes proper care of himself. He has had a pretty hard time of it, but I don’t see any reason why he should not be in a fair way for recovery now, provided nothing occurs to set him back. He will have to look out and not expose himself too much, however, for a while yet.”

At the corner of White Hall Street I left the doctor to go to the depot. He said, as I parted from him, “You must be careful and not exercise too much, lieutenant, or you will suffer for it. You are scarcely fairly on your feet as yet.” I promised to take care of myself and went to the depot, arriving there just as the downtrain was coming in. … I then returned to the hospital, and asked for my discharge. This was granted me, and I also obtained a ticket to go to Montgomery, where I had some business to attend to. … The next day I returned to Atlanta and went immediately to the hospital to visit Capt. De Caulp. To my great joy I found him out of bed and so much improved that he was confident of being well enough to walk out.

We, therefore, went down to the Thompson House together, and I engaged a room and set about making preparations for my marriage.

I was anxious that the affair should pass off as quietly as possible and particularly desired not to give any opportunity for unseemly gossip or talk, and on discussing the matter with Capt. De Caulp, we came to the conclusion that it would be better to tell the whole story to Drs. Benton and Hammond, and to ask them to witness the ceremony under a promise to say nothing to anyone about the fact of my having worn the uniform of a Confederate officer. We, however, resolved to take no one else into our confidence, although there were several good friends of both of us in the town whom we would have been glad to have had at our wedding.

I procured a sufficiency of woman’s apparel for my wedding outfit by purchasing at a variety of places, under the pleas that I wanted the garments for some persons out of town, or for presents to the girls at the hotel — in fact, making up whatever story I thought would answer my purpose. My trousseau was, perhaps, not so complete or so elegant as it might have been under some circumstances or as I could have desired but then the particular circumstances under which the wedding was to take place were peculiar, and neither the bridegroom nor the bride was disposed to be over-ceremonious, or to make much ado about trifles. So long as the captain and myself were satisfied, it did not much matter whether any one else was pleased or not, and we both concluded that a very modest wardrobe would be all that I would need, the main thing being that I should be dressed as a woman when the ceremony took place, for fear of creating too much of a sensation, and, perhaps, of making the clergyman feel unpleasant should I appear before him, hanging on the captain’s arm, in my uniform.

My arrangements having all been made, we concluded to inform the friends whom we had agreed to invite, and accordingly we walked to the hospital together, when the captain called Dr. Benton into his private room and astonished him by telling him that he was going to be married and by asking him to attend the wedding. I broke the news as gently as I could to Dr. Hammond, who scarcely knew what to make of it at first, but who, when I made him clearly understand the situation, gave me his hearty congratulations and promised to be present when the happy event came off.

The next day Capt. De Caulp and I were married in the parlor of the hotel by the Rev. Mr. Pinkington, the post chaplain, in as quiet and unpretentious a way as either of us could desire. The clergyman and our kind friends wished us all manner of happiness, and we both looked forward to a bright future, when, after the war was over, we could settle down in our home and enjoy the blessings of peace in each other’s society. …

I was very desirous of resuming my uniform and of accompanying my husband to the field. I wanted to go through the war with him and to fight by his side, just as I had done at Shiloh. He, however, was bitterly opposed to this, and, with my ample knowledge of army life, I could not but admit the full force of his objections. He contended, that, apart from everything else, I had served my country long enough as a soldier, and that I was under some obligation now to think of him as well as of myself, and no longer to peril life, health, and reputation by exposing myself, as I had been doing. He said that he would fight twice as hard as before and that would answer for both of us, although he was not sure but that what I had done ought to count in his favor — as man and wife were one — and procure him a release from further service.

I very reluctantly yielded an assent to his wishes, although, if I could have looked a little into the future, I either would have prevented his going to the front at all, or else would have insisted upon going with him. Indeed, he ought not to have gone when he did but he knew that the services of every man were needed, and so soon as he was at all able to be on duty, he felt as if he was shirking his share of the work by remaining at the rear when so much hard fighting was going on.

Loreta’s Civil War: Winning the fame I coveted

Velazquez surprises her husband with her presence, her disguise, and her soldiers. The joy created by their reunion, however, does not last long.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 9: Velazquez surprises her husband with her presence, her disguise, and her soldiers. The joy created by their reunion, however, does not last long.

******

I determined to march my men to the river, in order to break them in; but before we got to the landing, a good many of them were decidedly of the opinion that soldiering was much harder work than they had calculated upon. None of them showed any disposition to back out, however, and the majority, despite the fatigue of the march, were quite elated at the prospect before them of being able to see something of the world. I do not think any of them appreciated the real importance of what they were doing, and looked upon the whole affair much in the light of an excursion, which would be rather jolly than otherwise. Indeed, to tell the truth, I rather regarded the thing in that light myself, notwithstanding that I had seen enough of military life for me to understand something of its serious character.

At the landing I met my Memphis friend with my baggage and equipment and a tent, and with blankets and camp utensils for the use of the men. He also handed me a letter from my husband. This I eagerly read, and much to my disappointment, learned from it that he had gone to Pensacola. I determined, however, to push on and meet him there, for I was bent on carrying out my original idea of surprising him, and of offering him the command of my battalion. I accordingly embarked my men — two hundred and thirty-six in all — upon the steamer Ohio Belle, and issued to them blankets and other articles necessary for their comfort.

My plan now was to go down to New Orleans, where I should be able to procure such stores and equipment as were immediately needed and where I could perfect my disguise; for, not only did my padded coat not fit me as it ought, but it was almost unbearably warm, and I was anxious to substitute something more comfortable for the padding at the earliest possible moment. … On arriving at New Orleans, I landed my men a short distance above the city, and then, with as little delay as possible, purchased my quartermaster and commissary stores, and perfected my private outfit. … No finer body of men ever went out of New Orleans than the Arkansas Grays, as my battalion was called. As we passed through Mobile we were heartily cheered, the men waving their hats, and the women their handkerchiefs, and everybody commenting in the most laudatory terms upon our martial appearance, I cannot pretend to tell how proud I was, when I noted how much attention we were attracting; and if the shadow of a doubt as to the propriety of the course I was pursuing remained in any mind, it assuredly vanished as the cheers of the citizens of Mobile greeted my ears. I felt that, in spite of my being a woman, I was intended for a military leader, and I resolved, more firmly than ever, to let nothing stand in the way of my winning the fame I coveted.

At Pensacola we were received by my husband, who came to meet us in response to a telegraphic dispatch I had sent him, signed by my nom de guerre. He had not the slightest idea who I was, and would not have recognized me had I not revealed myself. So soon as I was able, however, after landing my men from the train, I took him aside where I could speak to him privately and disclosed my identity. He was intensely astonished and greatly grieved to see me come marching into Pensacola at the head of a body of men in such a guise, and said, that although I had done nobly, he would not for the world have had me attempt such a thing. I told him, however, that there was no use of discussing the matter, for was determined to be a soldier, and then placed in his hands the muster-rolls of my company to show him how well I could do what I undertook. He was proud of the ability I had displayed in carrying out my plans, and seeing the uselessness of further argument, took command of the men, and commenced putting them in training … while I was ordered back to New Orleans to purchase more stores and equipment.

I had scarcely arrived at my destination when I received a dispatch announcing the death of my husband and requesting my immediate return. Terribly shocked, and nearly wild with grief, I started for Pensacola again, and found, upon my arrival there, that, while drilling his men, my husband undertook to explain the use of the carbine to one of the sergeants, and the weapon exploded in his hands, killing him almost instantly.

I was now alone in the world, and more than ever disposed to take an active part in the war, if only for the purpose of revenging my husband’s death. Smothering my grief as much as possible, I turned over the command of my battalion to Lt. Thomas de Caulp, for the double reason that the men were only enlisted for three months and were to be stationed in Pensacola … and that I had resolved to go to the front in the character of an independent, with a view of leading a life of more stirring adventures than I probably should be able to do if permanently attached to a particular command.

During the brief time I had been in Pensacola I had formed the acquaintance of a number of officers who were going to the front, and, as they intended to leave for Richmond shortly, I concluded that it would be better to go in their company, especially as several of them were first-rate fellows, and one or two particular friends of my late husband. I also became acquainted with a good many ladies, one of whom, a dashing young widow, paid my masculine charms the compliment of falling desperately in love with them. This lady did not require any encouragement from me; but finding that, while polite to her, I was rather shy and reserved, and apparently insensible to her attractions, she made a dead set at me, and took pains to let me know, in terms that could not be misunderstood, the sentiments she felt for me.

I was really in no mood for nonsense of this kind, and, to tell the truth, I was not particularly pleased with the decidedly unfeminine advances that were made towards me. The necessity of playing the character I had assumed, however, in a successful manner, pressed upon me, and I felt that diversion of some kind was requisite to divert my mind from the sad and gloomy thoughts caused by my bereavement. I accordingly determined to meet my fair one half way, and paid her numerous attentions, such as taking her to the theater, and to drive upon the beach. I, however, resolutely refused to accept any of the numerous very broad hints she threw out, to the effect that a little more lovemaking would be more than agreeable, at which she seemed considerably surprised. Finding, at length, that I either could not or would not understand what she was driving at, she bluntly reproached me for not being more tender in my demonstrations towards her.

I put on the innocent air of a green schoolboy, perfectly non-plussed with the advances of a pretty woman, and assured her that I had never courted a lady in my life, and really did not know how to begin. The eagerness with which the widow undertook to instruct me was decidedly comical, and I learned more about some of the fine points of feminine human nature from her in a week than I had picked up for myself in twenty years. The courting was pretty much all on her side, and I really had not imagined before that it was possible for a lady to take such an important matter so entirely out of the gentleman’s hands. For the fun of the thing I pretended to soften to her, and by the time I was ready to start for Virginia, we were the best possible friends, and although I was careful to make no definite promises, the widow parted from me with the understanding that when the war was over we were to be something more than friends to each other. If I were a man, it would be absurd for me to tell all this, but being a woman, this and other of my love adventures have a comical interest for me, as I doubt not they will have for the reader. If they do not show some of the members of my own sex in the best possible light, it is their fault and not mine.

On the 16th of June I started for Virginia, in company with quite a jovial party of fellows. … They had a good deal of whiskey with them, and I was constantly importuned to drink, my declining to do so not having the best possible effect on some of them. The conversation became more and more profane and ribald, as the whiskey produced its natural effect; and being almost the only sober person in the party, I was not only intensely disgusted, but the warnings I had received from my husband came into my mind, and had a most depressing influence upon me. Much of the talk was mere meaningless blackguardism, and my ears were saluted for the first time with nastiness in the shape of language, such as it would have been impossible for me to have imagined the tongues of human beings to utter. It was an intense relief to me when, about four o’clock, the train arrived at Montgomery, [Alabama].

At the Exchange Hotel I met Mr. Leroy P. Walker, the secretary of war, with whom I had a very pleasant conversation about the prospects of the contest with the North, the political situation, and other matters of interest. The next day I bought a smart and mannerly negro boy, named Bob, of about eighteen years of age. I procured him a proper suit of clothes and a military cap, and then gave him charge of my baggage, with instructions to keep a sharp eye on my effects, to behave himself properly, and to come to me when he wanted spending money. Bob proved an excellent servant, taking care of my clothing in good style, and when we were in camp, attending to my two horses in a very satisfactory manner.

From Montgomery I went to Columbia, South Carolina, where I remained over for several days. During my stay in this place I formed the acquaintance of a very pleasant family, one of the young ladies of which. Miss Lou, seemed to be quite taken with me. I was invited to the house, and passed a number of agreeable hours there, and on parting, Miss Lou gave me her address, requesting me to write to her, and pinned a small C.S. flag on my coat.

On the train bound north, there was another quite jovial party, but, very much to my gratification, not so much addicted to whiskey-drinking, blasphemy, and obscenity, as that with which I had started out. A good deal of the conversation was about wives and sweethearts, and pictures of the loved ones at home were freely handed about. I was rallied rather severely because I could not show a photograph of my sweetheart, and some of the men intimated that I must be a poor kind of a man not to be able to find a girl to exchange photographs with me. I took the sharp things they thought fit to say of me in good part, and replied that I did not doubt of my ability to get a sweetheart soon enough when I wanted one.

Before the journey was ended, I had an opportunity to prove myself as good a lady’s man as the best of them, for at Lynchburg, where we were compelled to remain over all night, on taking the train for Richmond, an elderly gentleman stepped up, and after inquiring my destination, asked if 1 could take charge of some ladies. I replied that I would do so with pleasure; but was rather taken aback when I found myself placed in the position of escort to five women and two children. I could not imagine what induced the old gentleman to pick out a little fellow like me, when so many much larger, older, and more experienced officers were present, some of whom were greatly my superiors in rank. I was dreadfully embarrassed, but resolved to play the gallant to the best of my ability, although my heart was in my throat, and I could scarcely find voice to announce myself as Lieutenant Buford, when he inquired my name for the purpose of introducing me.

I was about to inquire whether the ladies had their tickets and checks, when the old gentleman presented them, very much to my satisfaction. Excusing myself for a few moments, I went to attend to checking my own baggage. …

We were soon under way, and had a pleasant enough ride, or at least it would have been pleasant enough had I not been tormented with the fear that they would penetrate my disguise, and discover that I was not what I pretended to be. No suspicions were excited, however, and we finally arrived at Richmond without anything having happened to mar the enjoyment of the journey. On alighting from the cars, I procured carriages to convey the several members of the party to their destination ; two of the ladies, however, accompanied me to the Ballard House, where I obtained rooms for them. The youngest of my newly-found female friends — a very pretty girl, who seemed to have taken quite a fancy to me — had the room adjoining mine, and I had scarcely established myself in my new quarters, when a waiter knocked at the door and handed me a card from her, asking me to escort her to supper. I laughed to myself at this, and fancying that I had succeeded in making another conquest, determined to get myself up in the best style I could, and to do credit to the uniform I wore by showing her that her appreciation was not misapplied. I dressed myself in my best apparel, and, after a visit to the barber’s, I was ready to play the gallant in the best possible manner.

It was all well enough while I was pacing the corridors of the hotel with mademoiselle on my arm, but I confess that my heart failed me when we entered the dining-room, and I fancied that everybody was looking at us. When the big steward, advancing towards us with his politest bow, said, “Lieutenant, step this way with your lady,” and then turning to one of the waiters, told him to attend to this gentleman and lady, it seemed to me as if every eye in the room was fixed on me. I was a rather conspicuous object, it is true, for my uniform, made of the best cloth, and trimmed with buttons and gold lace, was well calculated to attract attention, while the lady on my arm being rather taller than myself, made me even more an object for the curious to gaze at than if I had been alone. …

The young lady was nothing daunted by my silence and chattered away at a great rate on all imaginable subjects and finally succeeded in putting me somewhat at my ease. … My lady at length finished her supper, much to my relief, and I hurried her out of the room as fast as I could, and repaired to the drawing room, where I excused myself on the plea that I had urgent business to attend to, as I intended leaving the city on the first train. She seemed extremely reluctant to part company with me and would not let me go until I promised to see her again before I left the city. In bidding her good night, she extended her hand; and when I took it, she gave mine a squeeze, that indicated as plain as words that a trifle more forwardness on my part would not be disagreeable. I was a little bit disgusted with her very evident desire to capture me, and was very glad to get her off my hands, my determination on parting being not to see her again if I could avoid doing so.

Loreta’s Civil War: The dream of my life

The war begins, and Velazquez is ready to disguise herself as a man and join the fight. Her husband objects, and he decides to give her a preview of ‘masculine life.’

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 4: The war begins, and Velazquez is ready to disguise herself as a man and join the fight. Her husband objects, and he decides to give her a preview of ‘masculine life.’

******

In the spring of 1860 I returned to St. Louis, while my husband went to Fort Arbuckle. During his separation from me, our third babe was born and died. In October of the same year he returned, having received a summons from his father — a resident of Texas — to the effect that there was reason to believe a war was about to break out between the North and the South, and desiring him to resign.

About this time my two remaining children died of fever, and my grief at their loss probably had a great influence in reviving my old notions about military glory, and of exciting anew my desires to win fame on the battlefield. I was dreadfully afraid that there would be no war, and my spirits rose and sank as the prospects of a conflict brightened or faded. When my husband’s State determined to secede, I brought all my influence to bear to induce him to resign his commission in the United States army, and my persuasions, added to those of his father, finally induced him, very reluctantly, to yield. It was a great grief for him to forsake the uniform he had worn so long with honor, and to sever the bonds which existed between him and his comrades. He much doubted, too, the wisdom of the Southern States in taking the action they did, and wished most sincerely that the political difficulties which caused their secession could be settled in some other manner than by an armed conflict.

As for me, I was perfectly wild on the subject of war; and although I did not tell my husband so, I was resolved to forsake him if he raised his sword against the South. I felt that now the great opportunity of my life had arrived, and my mind was busy night and day in planning schemes for making my name famous above that of any of the great heroines of history, not even excepting my favorite, Joan of Arc. having decided to enter the Confederate service as a soldier, I desired, if possible, to obtain my husband’s consent, but he would not listen to anything I had to say on the subject; and all I could do was to wait his departure for the seat of war, in order to put my plans into execution without his knowledge, as I felt that it would be useless to argue with him, although I was obstinately bent upon realizing the dream of my life, whether he approved of my course or not. …

While preparing for his departure, on the anniversary of our wedding, we talked over the whole situation; and I cannot tell how proud and delighted I felt when he attired himself in his elegant new gray uniform. He never looked handsomer in his life, and I not only gave full vent to my admiration, but insisted upon broaching my favorite scheme again. … He used every possible argument to dissuade me from my purpose, representing the difficulties and dangers in the darkest colors, and contending that it would be impossible for him to permit his wife to follow an undisciplined army of volunteers. The situation, he told me, was entirely different from anything I had ever been accustomed to, and that the hordes of rude, coarse men collected together in a camp in an emergency like this, would have but little resemblance to the regular troops in garrison with whom I had been familiar; and that a delicately nurtured and refined woman would find camp life, during such a war as that just commencing, simply intolerable. He was not to be persuaded, while I turned a deaf ear to all his remonstrances, and persisted in arguing the point with him to the last.

Finally, my husband, finding that his words made no impression, thought he would be able to cure me of my erratic fancies by giving me an insight into some of the least pleasing features of masculine life. The night before his departure, therefore, he permitted me to dress myself in one of his suits, and said he would take me to the bar-rooms and other places of male resort, and show me something of what I would be compelled to go through with if I persisted in unsexing myself. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Lavish affection bestowed upon me

Velazquez realizes she is willing to pay any price to begin her new life with her beloved, even in the face of family rejection.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 3: Velazquez realizes she is willing to pay any price to begin her new life with her beloved, even in the face of family rejection.

******

When my lover began to appear at my aunt’s as a pretty constant visitor, Raphael was quick to suspect him as a rival, who was more highly appreciated than himself, and became furiously jealous. I cannot tell what torture I suffered in endeavoring to be amiable to a man whom I hated, in order that I might prevent an explosion which would deprive me of the society of the one I really loved with the most devoted fondness. Finally Raphael, unable to endure the sight of his rival constantly in attendance upon me, and evidently finding extreme favor in my eyes, prevailed upon my aunt to forbid him admittance to the house, on the plea that he was becoming altogether too intimate with the betrothed of another. This gratified Raphael’s malignity, and it was a severe blow to both of us. …

In spite of my aunt’s endeavors to keep us apart, and in spite of Raphael’s jealous vigilance, William — for that was my lover’s name — found means to carry on a correspondence with me, to meet me at the houses of mutual friends, and to speak to me on the street on my way to and from school. …

[O]ne evening, as I was sitting at my window, in company with a young French Creole girl, I saw William pass and look up. I waved my handkerchief in salutation, and he recognized the signal by raising his cap. I then asked the young lady if she would not do me the favor of taking a letter to him, and of permitting us to have an interview at her home. She readily consented; and carrying a hastily written note to William, soon returned with an answer, to the effect that he would meet me in an hour’s time. My aunt did not permit me to go out alone in the evening; but as she suspected nothing wrong in the proposed visit to my friend’s house, she consented, without hesitation, for me to go under the escort of one of the servants. As my escort, of course, on our arrival at the rendezvous, remained with the servants of the house, I was able to converse with William without fear of espial, or of being interrupted.

My lover informed me that he expected soon to be ordered to one of the frontier posts. He declared that he could not exist without me, and proposed that we should elope, and get married privately. As this was my own plan exactly, I gave my consent, without any hesitation, the moment the proposition was made. On a little reflection, however, my conscience began to trouble me, for I knew that I should not be doing right; so I told him I would prefer that he should make an open and straightforward proposition for my hand to my parents. I considered that it was a duty I owed them to ask their consent first, but promised, if they opposed the marriage, that I would not let their disapprobation interfere with the consummation of our wishes. William himself thought that this was the proper and honorable course to pursue, and he accordingly wrote to my father, and asked his permission to marry me. A reply to his request was not long forthcoming, in which he was reprimanded in very harsh terms for daring to make it, knowing me to be the betrothed of another. This settled the matter; and accordingly, on the 5th of April, 1856, we were clandestinely married. …

My aunt was extremely indignant; and finding me obdurate, threatened to put me in the convent at Baton Rouge. I was terribly frightened at this, and concluded that it was time for me to act with decision. I accordingly informed my husband of the situation, and he came immediately and claimed me as his wife, presenting the certificate of marriage to my horror-stricken relative.

This was a terrible blow to my aunt, but a greater one to my parents, especially to my father, who idolized me. My father’s indignation got the better of his affection, and he promptly informed me that I might consider myself as repudiated and disinherited. The pangs this cruel message caused me were intense, but I was consoled with the lavish affection bestowed upon me by my handsome young husband, and with the thought that, in course of time, my parents would relent, and be willing to again receive me as their daughter. …

Loreta’s Civil War: Cry with rage and vexation

Loreta remembers her betrothal to a boy she did not love and her pursuit of the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 2: Loreta remembers her betrothal to a boy she did not love and her pursuit of the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

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How well I did play my part, happily, does not depend upon my own testimony alone, for some of the most distinguished officers of the Confederate Army, and many equally distinguished civilians, can and will testify to the truthfulness of the story I am about to relate, and to the unblemished character I bore while in the Confederate service. I not only assumed the garment of my sex once more with the credit of having done the state some important services, and of having labored with efficiency, courage, and energy to secure the independence of the Confederacy, but, with my womanly reputation unblemished by even a suspicion of impropriety. …

Both in Spain and in the Spanish dominions on this side of the Atlantic, is the name of Velazquez well known and highly honored. Don Diego Velazquez, the conqueror and the first governor of Cuba, under whose superintendence the expedition which discovered Mexico was sent out, was one of my ancestors, and Don Diego Rodriguez Velazquez, the greatest artist that Spain ever produced, was a member of my family. It will thus be seen that I came of excellent, although somewhat fiery and headstrong stock, and, if in assuming the garments of a man, and endeavoring to do a man’s work on the battlefield, I transgressed against the conventionalities of modern society … despite the fact of my being a woman, I might be able to enjoy the excitements of the battlefield, and win for myself a warrior’s fame. …

In 1840, my father was appointed to an official position in Cuba, and two years later I, his sixth and last child, came into the world in a house on the Calle Velaggas, near the walls in the city of Havana, on the 26th of June, 1842. I was christened Loreta Janeta. …

From my earliest recollections my mind has been filled with aspirations of the most ardent possible kind, to fill some great sphere. I expended all my pocket money … in the purchase of books which related the events of the lives of kings, princes, and soldiers. … I wished that I was a man, such a man as Columbus or Captain Cook, and could discover new worlds, or explore unknown regions of the earth. … While residing with my aunt, it was frequently my habit, after all in the house had retired to bed at night, to dress myself in my cousin’s clothes, and to promenade by the hour before the mirror, practicing the gait of a man, and admiring the figure I made in masculine raiment.

I was betrothed to a young Spaniard, Raphael R., in accordance with plans which my relatives had formed with regard to me, and without any action on my part. Indeed, my consent was not asked, my parents, thinking that they were much better qualified to arrange a suitable alliance than I was, and that, provided other things were satisfactory, love was something of minor importance, that could very well be left to take care of itself. They were mistaken, however … I had no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the choice of a husband was something I ought to have a voice in. …

A marriage by parental arrangement was the last thing in the world to suit a scatter-brained, romantic girl like myself, whose head was filled with all sorts of wild notions, and it is not to be wondered at, therefore, that I rebelled. When I was betrothed to Raphael, however, I had not the slightest notion of objecting; and although I did not feel a particle of affection for him, I accepted him for my future husband, as a matter of course, and received his visits with a proper degree of complacency. … I consequently took no steps to get rid of Raphael until I chanced to make the acquaintance of a young American army officer who was paying particular attention to one of my schoolmates, Nellie V.

Nellie was a beautiful girl, of about sixteen years of age, and a very warm regard subsisted between us up to the time of her discovery that I was endeavoring to capture her lover. Her affection for me did not last long after that, and she said a great many disagreeable things about me, for which I have long since forgiven her, as I doubt not she has [forgiven] me for running away with her handsome young officer.

He was indeed a handsome young officer, and his manly and graceful appearance, especially when attired in his brilliant uniform, made such an impression on my heart, that I soon could think of nothing else. I found now that love was a reality, and my thoughts by day and my dreams by night had no other object than the gentleman who, while paying his assiduous attentions to Nellie, never imagined what ravages he was making in the heart of her schoolmate. I learned to hate Raphael, and his attempts to make himself agreeable to me only served to increase my dislike. Of Nellie I soon became savagely jealous, and was ready to cry with rage and vexation whenever I saw her lover paying her any delicate attentions. We, however, to all appearances, continued fast friends, and it was not for several months that she discovered I was her rival. The object of my devotion was also profoundly ignorant of my feelings towards him, and I had not the courage to tell him. At length I became desperate … to acquaint the young officer with the affection I entertained for him. …

One evening Nellie and I agreed to exchange partners, for the purpose of finding out how much they loved us. Raphael did not fancy this maneuver a bit, but submitted to it with as good a grace as possible. The officer and myself managed to get out of earshot of the other couple, but, now that the opportunity I had sighed for was mine, I was afraid to open my mouth on the subject nearest my heart. I trembled all over, but was determined before we separated to let him know the state of my heart. Finding that I had not courage to speak, I wrote a few words in his pocket diary, which told him everything.

He was intensely surprised but he declared, with much warmth, that he had long wished to speak with me on this very matter, and would have done so, were it not that he thought I was betrothed, and that under any circumstances there would be no chance for an American to win my affections. My new lover behaved in the most honorable manner, for, as soon as he obtained my consent for him to pay his addresses, he went to my aunt, and asked permission to visit at her house. She granted his request, with the condition that he was to understand that I was betrothed, and would demean himself towards me accordingly. This condition he listened to, but with a determination to pay little heed to it, his main object being accomplished in securing the right to see me without fear of being interfered with.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The flower-wreathed scepter

Stone records the fall of Atlanta along with pitiful rumors of its victorious Confederate recapture. By now the ripples of great battles hardly disturb her social shores.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone records the fall of Atlanta along with pitiful rumors of its victorious Confederate recapture. By now the ripples of great battles hardly disturb her social shores.

Sept. 27, 1864

Near Oak Ridge, La.

We hear of the lamentable fall of Atlanta and rumors of its recapture, which we trust may be true. There is no further fear of a Yankee raid as there are very few troops left at Goodrich’s Landing, and everyone seems to look for peace in the spring. …

An amusing letter from Missie Morris in which she utterly repudiates the idea of our giving up as “Old Maids” for two years yet, when she will be willing to lay down the flower-wreathed scepter of girlhood and don the badge of spinsterhood.

Capt. Gillispie came in two days ago and has kept the house in an uproar ever since. He is overflowing with fun and frolic but is rather too familiar and something rude. He does not improve on acquaintance. I fear he is fast, a perfect opposite to tiny Mr. Kurrie, who came with him. We thought him at first about twelve years old, so quiet and solemn. He really is twenty. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: My pen is powerless

Stone had little respect for anyone who lacked her sense of style and bearing. She hardly sympathized with the people of East Texas.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone had little respect for anyone who lacked her sense of style and bearing. She hardly sympathized with the people of East Texas.

Aug. 16, 1863

“Elysian Fields,” Lamar County, Texas

We went to church this morning at a tumbledown schoolhouse called Liberty expecting to hear the funeral sermon of Mrs. Alexander, who was a near neighbor. The poor woman has been dead four months, and her husband married again six weeks after her death. But he says he is determined to pay proper respect to dear Mary and so will have her funeral preached, with the new wife sitting decorously near to hear it.

It was the oddest-looking crowd one could imagine, and the very funniest dressing we ever saw. My pen is powerless to describe it: one girl airy in pink tarleton and another sweltering in red woolen; high horn combs with long ribbon streamers waving from the top; immense hoops; and strand after strand of beads, all colors, wound around their necks.

Many of the men were barefooted, and nearly all of their slouched wool hats were decorated with ribbons or an artificial flower. There were few coats but many vests and a display of homemade knit galluses. It was a most unusual-looking crowd, all sitting on puncheons laid on supports, some of them constantly slipping down. …